Types of Korean Anju (Drinking Snacks)

In Korea, drinking alcohol and eating go hand in hand: alcohol is almost always served and enjoyed with snacks or side dishes called "Anju". These dishes are often savory and/or spicy like spicy fried chicken or squid, but nuts and fruit are also popular anju.

It is a requirement to order anju with drinks at many Korean bars, clubs, and karaoke places. Until recently, soju was the social drink of choice, but now beer, wine, and brand name hard liquors are also popular.

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    Nuts, Fruit, and Finger Foods

    Finger Food Anju. NAOMI IMATOME

    Similar to "beer and nuts" in America, nuts are also a popular and easy anju in Korea. Like the bowl of free popcorn or pretzels on the bar, salty snacks pair nicely with beer and soju. I've heard many Koreans claim salty foods help to absorb the alcohol.

    Fruit is another popular anju, and fresh fruit plates are common in bars and nightclubs. A blend of dried fruit and nuts is another anju. Since there are many soju drinks that use fruits like strawberries, lemons, oranges, and...MORE apples, fruit is a good complement to soju cocktails.

    Other finger foods like sweet dried squid or dried anchovies and nuts are served as anju as well. I've been served a huge array of salty and sweet chips, Korean shrimp crackers, and sweet treats as anju snacks.

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    Savory and Fried Foods

    Korean Scallion Pancake (Pa Jun)
    Scallion Pancakes, a popular Anju. Naomi Imatome

    Savory foods are probably the most popular type of anju, but that's mostly because anju is flexible. The most common savory anju dishes are things that are served pre-portioned like pa jun (and other jun), fried chicken, and soondae (Korean blood sausage). Since, many people prefer to have a little grease with their alcohol, pan-fried and deep-fried foods (like French fries) are often at the top of the list on Korean bar menus. White rice and soup are the only things that I've probably...MORE never seen as anju, although almost all other savory Korean dishes can be acceptable anju.

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    Spicy Dishes and Strong Flavors

    Korean Spicy Stir Fried Squid (Ojinguh Bokum)
    Spicy Stir Fried Squid (Ojinguh Bokum). Naomi Imatome

    This category could also be used to describe a lot of Korean food, so it should be no surprise that Koreans also love spicy and robust flavors in their anju. Although I'm not someone who can drink a huge quantity of hard alcohol, I do enjoy spicy anju with soju. But be careful, as it's not for the faint of stomach.

    Popular anju with lots of spice include raw spicy crab, spicy stir-fried squid or octopus, spicy rice cakes and fish cakes (dukboki) and sauteed kimchi with tofu (dubu kimchi).